Our produce team has been learning a lot about pineapple lately. We had heard from various sources about environmental problems associated with pineapple production in Costa Rica and we wanted to know more. Over the past six months, we’ve toured farms, tasted lots of pineapple and met with a diverse group of knowledgeable people, including growers (large and small), farm workers, importers, certifiers, academics and others – a peace corps volunteer even took a long bus ride to tell us about her life and work in a community on the edge of a big pineapple farm.
As a result of what we’ve learned, this April (Earth Month) we’re introducing Whole Trade Pineapple. As always, the Whole Trade Guarantee™ is our commitment to ethical trade, the environment and the highest quality. In this case, the quality speaks for itself. This fruit is excellent – fresh, ripe and sweet. I’ll explain in the rest of this post why it’s also important that it meet the other requirements of the Whole Trade Guarantee.
Most of the fresh pineapple in the U.S. now comes from Costa Rica, a recent shift from Hawaiian production driven by many factors including better growing conditions in the tropics and the cost of land and labor. Since 2000, pineapple production area in Costa Rica has increased by more than 300% from 27,000 acres to more than 110,000. Pineapple has overtaken coffee to become Costa Rica’s #2 export crop in dollars (bananas are #1).
Pineapple is a land and labor-intensive crop and, like many commercial crops, it is farmed intensively. As planted area has increased rapidly, so has concern over the environmental and social impact of this relatively new industry. A few principal complaints have emerged, including: heavy erosion and loss of top soil; contamination of water supplies from runoff of agrochemicals; infestations of insects that are attracted to improperly disposed plant matter; and deforestation in the search for new area to plant. Despite reassurances from the broader industry that production is compliant with local laws and similar in environmental impact to other intensive crops, we see an opportunity to use our purchasing power to support growers who are raising the bar.
A healthy buffer zone between plantings at a conventional farm certified by Rainforest Alliance.
Here’s how our Whole Trade™ Pineapple will make a difference:
- Supporting Organic – We’ve converted a significant portion of our pineapple supply to organic. Organic production prohibits use of the agrochemicals that have become so controversial in Costa Rica. To control weeds, organic growers use a thin plastic covering over their beds that drastically reduces erosion. Organic production also prohibits the use of ripening agents, which give most pineapple its bright gold shell color. This organic fruit is ripe and ready to eat when green on the outside — if you don’t believe us, ask for a taste!
WFM's Karen Christensen on one of our Whole Trade Organic farms.
- 3rd Party Social / Environmental Certification – All of our Whole Trade pineapple (including organic) is either Rainforest Alliance or Fair Trade certified. Both of these independent certifiers ensure that very specific environmental and social standards are met. Please follow the links to learn more about the specific standards. Enjoy this fruit knowing it was grown on one of the few pineapple farms in the world that meet the high social and environmental standards set by our Whole Trade certifier partners.
- Investing in Communities, Research and Education – We make an additional contribution on each box of Whole Trade Pineapple we purchase. On Fair Trade Certified product, the contribution flows directly to the workers at the farm, who will use the money to fund community projects such as education and day care centers. On Rainforest Alliance Certified product, we make the contribution to our friends at EARTH University to support their scholarship fund and sustainable pineapple research.
Supply of this highly certified pineapple is still limited, so we can’t guarantee it will be the only
pineapple you find in our stores. We’re buying as much as we can get and we’re working to bring additional supply online. If you have any questions about what you’re buying, just ask a produce team member in one of our stores. Enjoy!